In my last post, I discussed some of the concerns that may arise for someone who is dating a trans guy. Lots of the points I dealt with are applicable to all relationships of course. But the point of the post was to respond to all of those people who find this blog by running a search for “dating a trans man.”
Since I posted though, it occurred to me that there are all these posts out there in the blogosphere full of people complaining about the lack of respect their non-trans partners show toward them. In many cases, I’ve wondered what kind of respect the trans person was showing their partner. I’ve read a lot of things that made me go “hmmmm.”
In one particular online community that shall remain nameless (I joined when I first started to transition and left after two weeks because I was annoyed by all the anger, name calling and labelling, as in “who is a REAL FTM”), I often read rants by trans guys who were annoyed by various behaviours demonstrated by their existing or potential dating partners. In some cases, I was left feeling like the other person was unfairly judged. I do believe there are always two sides to every story. And for some behaviours that, yes, may be annoying to a trans person, it is important to try to assess whether it was done maliciously or not and whether the person is seeking to correct that behaviour once they find out that it is hurting the other person. Of course, it is important to know whether the person who is hurt by the behaviour even told them! And if they did tell them, did they do so in a way that was conducive to dialogue rather than confrontation.
Again, this is applicable to ALL relationships. How can someone know that their behaviour is bothering you if you don’t point it out? And if you do point it out but in a way that is making them feel attacked, how do you expect them to not get defensive?
In the case of trans folk, unfortunately, I’ve *sometimes* felt, in my readings or discussions, that some (not all, ok?!?!) trans folk think that the other person should already know all about gender issues. Come on. Most of us read and thought about our genders for YEARS and YEARS before getting it for ourselves. How can we expect our partners, friends and co-workers to just get it instantaneously? We need to give them time to digest something that is often completely new to them, particularly if we are not dating within a community that is already queer and trans aware and particularly if we are trans AND genderqueer.
I’ve gotten very annoyed with some queer/trans/GQ acquaintances who get self-righteous with cis and hetero folk who are well-intentioned and want to learn but who are still at square one. Yelling at people and putting them down will only alienate them.
Now, of course, if you’ve taken the time to explain things and people persist with behaviours that annoy you, *then* you can start to call them on their lack of respect or neglect of etiquette. If they get defensive or laugh it off, THEN you can begin to consider them disrespectful. But if a person is simply confused and needs guidance, why give them shit? Give them information, or sources where they can get it, then give them time. YES, YES, YES, I’m aware that not everyone feels it is their job as a trans person to educate everyone they encounter. That is not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is that you can’t expect people to magically get you when it’s quite possible that it’s the first time they have ever encountered anyone like you. And when it comes to dating, whether you’re trans or not, it IS the job of any partner, trans or not, who wants to be respected, to lay the groundwork for what respect means to them. No one can read anyone else’s mind.
Ultimately, if I was to give any dating tips to trans folk, it would be honesty, respect and pride. Be honest about what you’re feeling. If you’re not even sure how you’re feeling, be honest about that too. If you need time, say it. But respect the other person’s needs too. Be proud of who you are and don’t lower your head in shame when you talk about who you are. Yes, this applies to ALL relationships, emotional, sexual or otherwise. Have I been perfect in this regard? Not at all. But I’m learning and I’m writing this as much for myself as for anyone else.